How to Fire Someone Who Isn’t the Right Fit for the Company

It’s every team’s biggest headache — one of the people in your company simply doesn’t fit. Their attitude may be problematic, they may lack expertise, or maybe they’re perfectly fit for the job, just … somewhere else. But you dread the drama of firing someone. You’ve got to do it yourself because you don’t have an HR department and you’re just not quite sure how to kick someone off the bus without turning it into some big ordeal. 

When it dawns on you that someone on your team doesn’t quite fit, it’s tempting to just ignore it or hope it gets better. But this will only set your team up for increasing frustration in the future. Push this problem under the rug and your productivity may begin to suffer. Even worse, resentment can start to build among team members who are working in an environment that agitates them.

So what do you do?

how to fire someone

Things to Consider Before Firing Someone

Before communicating with the bad hire, get very clear about the decision to let them go. Managers should consult with each other and be in agreement, or at least in understanding, about the decision.

Poor hires can be separated into two general categories: work-related issues and cultural fit issues.

For example, if an employee has exhibited inappropriate behavior that clearly goes against company values and policies, the decision to fire may be quick and simple.

On the other hand, if there are problems with the quality of work, make sure there is nothing the company is doing to exacerbate this (like discouraging vacation time or discouraging collaboration). It’s easy to simply point the finger and fire the employee. But if the company plays a role and it is not recognized, the next hire will end up in the same boat. High turnover rates are one sign that this might be happening. Implementing things that support your team — such as regular training and team collaboration software — can reduce the stress and friction that hinders job performance.

With this in mind, decide whether there are steps that you can take before immediately firing the employee. Put those in motion first. This may include having a meeting with them to discuss the problems. If these efforts produce no positive results, you can then be sure that it is time to fire the employee.

What Not to Do When Firing Someone

It’s important to remember that letting an employee go doesn’t have to be harsh and confrontational. Weak communication is the number one thing to avoid. Not being entirely honest can send the situation south, but getting too personal can do the same. So find a balance: Don’t take a criticizing or subjective tone (for example, giving your personal opinion of them), but don’t sugarcoat what the real issues are, as this can make the person feel as though you are dishonest or are insulting their intelligence.

In addition, it’s crucial to steer clear of triangulation. Triangulation occurs when certain information is kept from one party but shared between two other parties. This is essentially gossip, and it has no place in a professional environment. Keep it simple and stick to facts when discussing another employee’s departure with a team member.

How to Avoid Making Bad Hires

Of course, we’d all rather not deal with the problem of bad hires in the first place. So even if it’s too late to reverse poor hiring decisions that were made, your company can reshape onboarding practices to ensure this situation doesn’t keep happening.

First, get clear on expectations — even before bringing candidates in for interviews. It should be spelled out what the company expects from the candidate and what the candidate expects from the company with every position. Even when this is somewhat addressed, misunderstandings can arise. For example, a flexible work environment can mean two totally different things to different people.

Brand identity is also a significant factor. The more a company understands and directly communicates its culture and values, the less likely it is to make bad hires. From managers to team members to HR departments, everyone in the company should be able to recognize and articulate what the company is (and what the company is not). From start to finish, this company identity must be communicated — from the job application all the way to the interviewer’s conversation with the candidate. The more this message varies, the more opportunities there are for misunderstanding.

Are bad hires the norm at your company? In this case, look at where you are sourcing candidates. It could be that the particular sources you use (for example, certain social media sites or job boards) are delivering you the wrong people. If your talent pool is questionable, don’t choose the best candidate from that limited group and cross your fingers. Instead, continuously expand the pool by drawing from new sources. Once you start receiving stronger applications, you can then see where these candidates are coming from and choose them.

A 2015 Glassdoor study revealed that a whopping 95 percent of companies admit to making poor hiring decisions each year. With an issue as widespread as this, companies need to get proactive about how and where they communicate with potential candidates. And of course, despite your best efforts, sometimes new hires just don’t work out for reasons related to the individual. Rather than beating yourself up, guide your team to keep their eyes on the prize, do their best work, and welcome the next candidate with a fresh perspective.

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